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Ikaria or Santorini

Hi there,
This will be my first time to Greece with my 19-year-old son and 16-year old daughter. We will be there for 10 days beginning March 16th and I'm stringing together this trip at the last minute. I can't decide whether to go to Ikaria or Santorini. I'm interested in visiting Ikaria because it is a Blue Zone, an area in the world with one of the largest concentrations of centenarians. But....I know Santorini is gorgeous and it's often what people envision when they visit Greece. So I'm trying to decide which to visit. We will probably spend a day in Athens to recover from a long flight, then go to either Ikaria or Santorini for 4-5 days and then back to Athens for the last few days of the trip.

The other option is to skip Athens and use it as a base just for our first day and perhaps our last day in Greece.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by
16 posts

Hi pjmun. Wow, how to choose! In my opinion Santorini is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, with the caldera, white and black beaches, hiking trails, various dwellings, etc. Plan on doing lots of steps to and from your lodgings. And of course there are the many cruise ships spewing out tons of tourists! Go where they’re not! BUT, I must also say that I loved Ikaria. We stayed at Thea’s Inn in Nas (a niece of a friend) on two trips, staying almost a week each time. Above and beyond hospitality, gorgeous views, fantastic food. Beaches within walking distance, great and extensive hiking trails. Clean, spare accommodation, a true Greek experience. Be sure to check her out in your decision making. We had a car and explored more of the island and I only have fond memories. And yes, a blue zone. If you’re traveling that far I hope you can spend some time at both places!
Deb

Posted by
6018 posts

Those are two places with a stark difference in experience. One very beautiful, but touristy, the other with it's own beauty and a much more Greek experience.

It comes down to: What are you looking for overall? If you want a relaxing time for a few days without the press of people, but little to do other than hiking, swimming, and maybe a sight or two, then Ikaria probably wins. If you really want the spectacle of the caldera and want to see the impact of the eruption at Akrotiri, and can tolerate crowds, costs, and the pitfalls that come with too many tourists, then maybe Santorini works.

Only you can make that decision unfortunately. (I myself would lean toward Ikaria, but been to Santorini, seen the caldera and Akrotiri, so little else there to lure me,) Many on here have been to Santorini, and love it, but have not been to Ikaria...so you will hear much more praise for Santorini.

Posted by
1940 posts

First, remember that in mid-March you won’t be swimming or spending much time on beaches on either island.

Ikaria will be quiet. You’d probably want to stay in Agios Kirykos, the capital and main port. There are some radioactive springs and a small museum there. It would be your best chance of meeting with locals. The rest of the island will be pretty deserted. We stayed near Nas in September a few years ago and seldom saw another person. The drives and hikes were gorgeous but I suspect your teenagers will be bored after a day or two. Flights to and from Ikaria may not happen every day, and if a flight is cancelled due to weather or whatever, you could be stranded a day or two.

Santorini is the opposite — crowded and expensive but lots to see and do. Gorgeous sunsets, great hikes, lots of activities (boat excursions, tours).

Experienced Greek travelers on this forum always recommend that you try to fly into Athens and directly out to an island for your first night. That would be tough coming from Hawaii but if you can coordinate your flights, it’s worth it. It’s much more fun to recover from jet lag on a beautiful island rather than in a busy city.

Since there are more flights to Santorini (and I think your teenagers would enjoy it more), that’s where I’d go. Spend 3 or 4 nights, then fly back to Athens.

Athens has lots of sights to explore, and you can maybe take a day trip to Delphi or to the little island of Aegina near Athens.

Go to the Search bar at the top of this forum and look for Santorini and Athens. You will find tons of suggestions of places to stay and things to do.

Then some summer, when you have more time, visit Ikaria.

Posted by
6018 posts

Good points, Charlene, I read right over the "March" date, that can have a big effect, some of the services on islands may even still be shut down. I would try to get some solid information on lodging on Ikaria at that time of year. Santorini operates year round, but in a reduced capacity.

Given your time of year, and the time you have, I guess I would toss out that heading down to the Peloponnese Peninsula might be an option "instead". Nafplio is a nice town with Mycenae and Epidaurus close by for ancient sites, and likely to be up and running at that time.

Posted by
115 posts

Thank you all so much. I’m going to have to think this over. Definitely pros and cons to both considering the time of year.

Posted by
115 posts

Forgot to add that I did contact Thea and Thea’s Inn is open although the restaurant is closed. Not being able to go to the beach isn’t a big deal coming from Hawaii. I’m more interested in soaking up the culture but yes, my teenagers run the risk of getting bored in Ikaria. Still thinking this over.

Posted by
975 posts

I haven't been to Santorini nor plan to.

I have been to Ikaria but it was much later in my travels to Greece and it was early October.

I split my time between Armenistis and Agios Kirikos.

Armenistis was very quiet but lovely. Agios was fully open with lots of options.

An alternative to Armenistis would be Evdilos. Very nice waterfront, town and good selection of services.

It's a quirky island full of character and characters. It was where the Greek government "dumped" communists, socialists and left-leaning Greeks so you have a unique population of people. Don't worry the people are welcoming but don't sell out to tourism.

I loved my time on the island but don't expect it to be a typical Greek Island.

Here are my photos of Ikaria:

https://tinyurl.com/y4e5dsj6

Here's a great site for Ikaria:

http://www.island-ikaria.com/

Posted by
1204 posts

Make sure you don't shortchange Athens - lots of history and a fun place to visit! I can only vouch for Santorini and it's beautiful. For the "real Greece experience" get out of the tourist zone in Athens and off the caldera rim on Santorini.

Posted by
7991 posts

If you visit Santorini, two nights is enough. Go to Paros or to Naxos for your remaining days.

Posted by
115 posts

Thank you for this additional information. I am leaning towards Athens and Ikaria knowing that Ikaria is off the beaten path. The face that it is a blue zone is very appealing to me. Will decide in the next day or two but all these comments have been hugely helpful.

Posted by
975 posts

Here are a couple videos I made of my time in Ikaria.

The first is the unique archeological site of Drakona and it's well preserved tower:

https://youtu.be/XyZTiIwjTgs

The second is the beautiful Theoktisti Monastery. Also the surrounding grounds which includes a "pirate" or rock house that were used to blend in with the rocks and cliffs. They are located in many other parts of the island.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTC0e8SbKos&feature=youtu.be

Ikaria is unique, not overly touristy and a change of pace from the Big Name Islands!

Posted by
1940 posts

Before you make your decision, I’d suggest looking up average temperatures for March in Ikaria and Santorini, as well as flight options to and from both islands. And visit other travel sites to get opinions on travel to Ikaria in March.

Posted by
115 posts

Thanks for sharing Tommy.

And yes, Charlene, when I quickly looked for flights to and from Ikaria from Athens, it appeared there were only two per week on one of the airlines I looked at. Am going to spend today looking closely at flights today. I’m not worried about temperatures as we live in Hawaii and get warm weather all year round so that, and the beach, are not a draw for me.

Posted by
975 posts

There are two Greek Airlines: Aegean & Sky Express with Sky Express usually being less expensive.

Aegean gets higher ratings but SE is usually good.

It's just a matter of finding the right dates for flights to Ikaria.

Posted by
115 posts

Thanks Tommy. I ended booking with Aegean Air last night. It was probably more expensive but Sky Express had bad reviews whereas Aegean Air had great ones.

Posted by
975 posts

I've flown with Aegean numerous times and they have been great.

No delays, no cancellations, no lost baggage and more importantly safe flight.

If you need any more info with Ikaria just ask.

Posted by
2898 posts

I'd like to add that iffy reviews for Sky Express should be looked at for dates... a few years back during start-up, there were some issues, but recently it has had a very reliable record. In 2019 my companions had to choose and Sky was more convenient, they had no problems.